The Art of the Strain (June 28, 2016) by Robert Abele is based on Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s book trilogy that became TV series The Strain. The television series premiered on FX on July 13, 2014. I was pretty excited about it because, well, I have this thing for vampires. I’ve been a somewhat bitter television watcher since the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike which I blame for Pushing Daisies untimely end. This may read as someone who is overly bitter, and perhaps I am, but there was an estimated 10% decrease in the television-viewing audience as a result of the writer’s strike, and those numbers have not increased since then so there are other bitter viewers out there. I write this only because each and every time another show like Moonlight (another one I blame on the writer’s strike) would be introduced, I would try to ignore it. You know, because if you don’t love it then you’re not actually losing it right? Then True Blood premiered in 2008 and I started watching that. In fact, before True Blood I didn’t have cable nor did I have HBO. Yes, you read that correctly. I grew up in rural Virginia. My parents still can only access cable channels through satellite but that was not the reality of my youth and who can afford cable while in college? And I was in college for about a decade; then I became a teacher who couldn’t afford to live in Boston but did so with my four jobs to make ends meet, I was not watching television. Anyway, if TrueBlood ended or went off-rail, it was alright because I had been reading the The Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris since 2003 (the series began in 2001 but I didn’t discover these until 2003 when I checked the first three books out at my local library). All of this boils down to me being a reading nerd.
Anyhoo, yesterday I discovered and read The Art of the Strain in one sitting. Normally I don’t love books about television shows but since I am waiting for the tv series to return, I could read it for free on NetGalley, and it was a rainy day so I was avoiding editing my chapter I gave it a go and loved it!
This is a fan's book so if you purchase it make sure you're prepared for spoilers. I'm doing that for the book trilogy as well. Usually I read the books first and then watch the series or the movie. With The Strain, I'm reading one novel after the television season ends. This book takes you through two seasons which did make me wonder why the publisher just did not wait until the series ends so all of the details could be included in this type of book.
I learned back stories about del Toro’s ideas. For example, in the introduction, del Toro recalls learning about a tree that grows south of Mexico that is basically a parasite tree. It grows around a healthy tree and strangles it drinking its sap until the healthy tree dies. Little tidbits like this make me love the creation of the story even more.
Another part of the book that I enjoyed was reading about del Toro’s control of color. As a viewer, I notice the colors and appreciate the aesthetic but I did not know that everything was so incredibly controlled. Basically, del Toro created a visual language using blue and gold, along with red to communicate the story. Reading this I was reminded of the poster for Crimson Peak that was blue and red. The use of color in that film was one of the best parts.
The Art of the Strain walks readers through each character’s backstory to even details about the props and how they were found or created. The book goes into detail about how The Lumen was created (the old book in the series) and how Setrakian’s cane. Some of this information I had inferred from the television series and some was actually knew-to-me/I’m-going-to-pay-better-attention-in-the-future such as I need to pay attention to The Master’s clothing just a little bit more. There are also details about the prosthetics actor Robert Maillet, whom I met at the Scares that Care event last year, has to wear while playing The Master.
Finally, the book goes into detail some of the metaphors that del Toro included in the making of the series from use of gold tones in color representing the sun to The Master’s eyes suggesting an eclipsed sun. I just love learning details like that because anyone who nerds out on what they do makes me happy.
Finally, I read the book on my Kindle. I can see myself buying a copy because the illustrations and pictures are beautiful (viewing it on the Amazon preview page). I have not included The Strain into my vampire course just yet but this book makes me consider at least adding the pilot episode, which I still believe is quite eerie.